My heart rate starts to rise and I realise I am replying in short, clipped comments, trying to cut the conversation short as my friend, who I’ve asked for advice on some equipment starts to suggest that I actually need to go into an outdoor shop. My palms are clammy and I feel agitated and stressed at the through of it. I try to stay polite but actually just want to put the phone down. We nearly came to blows once before after getting off the sleeper train in Scotland and striking up a conversation about a kit booking system. I hate talking about kit, to me it’s the most boring and uninteresting thing about any form of activity. I just need it to work. I don’t get any joy from sitting and reading endless reviews and opinions of how a specific bit of a multi fuel stove works and what its advantages and disadvantages are, or at worst, ruining a perfectly good evening by chatting about it in the pub.
I don’t understand how people can recall every specific detail and I secretly wish we could all just be supplied with standard issue equipment then we wouldn’t have to think about it. I know this form of governance has been implemented with dubious results around the world but am willing to give it a go, at least where equipment is concerned. For some reason, probably punishment, I’m the equipment officer in our canoe club. I recently joined a kayaking group on Facebook where most of the banter seems to be about roof racks. Obviously this is friendly, helpful advice and opinion that I have doubtless benefitted from in the past and my views are irrational. On one post though, someone recently asked the world how he should put on his pants correctly. Seriously.
It is an odd stance and goes against my approach to life in general, which is to support and encourage diversity, choice and freedom, but when it comes to kit. I’m quite happy for a totalitarian regime to take over. I sat on a channel ferry once listening to a well feed man talking about how he was going to take his racing ksysk to have all the stainless steel screws replaced with titanium, to make it a bit lighter. As he washed a bag of crisps down with another ale, I thought, you could just go easy on the snacks.
I can't get away from the fact that I need a new tent and that in itself is exciting but what to get? (This is the bit where I try to talk about kit. Feel free to stop reading now and go and poke your eyes out or something) My previous tent was fine until all the poles started to sheer and snap, I tried to keep it going with various pole splints but each time, as I lay there trying to sleep, I could hear the gentle clicks as more of the connections failed. In the end I had to admit defeat, the tent geometry having morphed into a kind of German expressionist sculpture worthy of Dr Caligari and giving it the nickname Franken-tent. This went well with my boat Franken-sterm following some emergency repairs and an encounter with the jagged Cornish coast. Although interesting to look at, as a form of shelter, the tent is completely useless. Having returned it twice, replaced all the poles and always carrying a spare set, I’ve now finally admitted defeat. I have trawled websites and catalogues to get to a shortlist. Simple, strong and enough room to sit up are my main requirements.
Preparing myself, I ring ahead to check stock in the stores to avoid a wasted trip. The store that has the ones I want to see can’t find them when I go in and look at me suspiciously when I ask, as if I'm not beardy enough to need one. The rest of the assistants are too cool to bother, you can tell as they are hanging out near the snowboards wearing hats indoors. One store has a tent that they’ve helpfully put aside but it’s not possible to pitch it. In another, I had to go in twice as I thought I was being stupid that I couldn’t see any tents in a camping shop. The assistant then runs through the catalogue and suggests a range of inappropriate options once I’ve explained the conditions I’ll be using it in. The one thing I gained from it was that I could see the pack size and feel the weight which I admit was useful.
My feeling of inadequacy in this situation is compounded when I decide to get some food in a Vietnamese noodle bar so the whole evening wasn’t a complete write off. The waitress is very helpful but immediately asks me if I would like to eat with a bib. I look around and can’t see anyone else wearing one, I obviously look like a messy eater. I am sitting in the window so feel a bit on show. As she ties the waxy blue crepe paper around my neck and tells me how to eat the soup, I feel like the man on Facebook with the pants. After a few more weeks deliberation, speaking to more people, seeing some of the ones I was looking at pitched on trips, a friend puts me onto a website with 20% discount on all tents and sleeping bags. Discount tent - great! I’m in!
I’ve bought a TerraNova Quasar (if anyone makes it this far)
Post trip note: I took the Quasar back and got a lighter Voyager instead!